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Smothered Collard Greens

April 24, 2009     Views 8,449     Grabbed 2     Grab    

Smothered Collard Greens

A New Orleans chef keeps regional dishes alive

In Cajun country, a standard breakfast is cheesy eggs and spicy boudin sausage, chased with dark chicory coffee. Good luck finding this delicacy outside of Acadiana, though: Traditional dishes like this are dying out.

But with two restaurants and a brand-new cookbook, New Orleans chef Donald Link is fighting to preserve his region's best recipes.

Link grew up in the heart of Cajun country, and at Cochon, his wildly popular two-year-old restaurant, he serves the soul-satisfying dishes of his childhood, including fried rabbit livers, crawfish pies and gumbo. Next door, at his new butcher shop, locals pour in at lunchtime for gooey duck pastrami sandwiches, overstuffed muffulettas and Link's famed bacon pralines.

Now, with his just-released cookbook, Real Cajun, Link is spreading the gospel of crawfish and sausage to national audience. Real Cajun brings together ages-old family recipes like pork belly cracklings and dirty rice with Link's own adaptations of the classics. One of his favorite recipes--and now ours--is this one for Smothered Collard Greens. They're exceptionally delicious served over a hunk of cornbread, which will soak up all of the greens' fragrant juices.

Smothered Collard Greens
Recipe adapted from Real Cajun (Clarkson Potter)
Makes 6 to 8 servings

3 bunches (about 2 pounds) collards or other leafy greens
4 strips of thick-sliced bacon, cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Several dashes of hot sauce, plus more as needed
¼ cup cider vinegar, plus more as needed
1 cup chicken broth or water

1. Strip the stems from the leaves of the collards and tear the leaves into 3-inch squares; wash the torn leaves in plenty of cold water. Discard the stems.

2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until not quite crisp or colored, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, sugar, pepper and hot sauce, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the vinegar, bring to a simmer, and cook until reduced by half, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the greens and the broth or water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 30 to 35 minutes, until the greens are very tender. If the pot appears to be drying out, add more water, as necessary, to prevent the greens from sticking.

3. Season to taste with additional vinegar and hot sauce. Be sure to serve the greens with a generous ladle of the fragrant juices.

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